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A History of the Birds of New Zealand.

Fuligula Novæ Zealandiæ. — (New-Zealand Scaup.)

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Fuligula Novæ Zealandiæ.
(New-Zealand Scaup.)

  • New-Zealand Duck, Lath. Gen. Syn. iii. pt. 2, p. 543 (1785).

  • Anas novæ seelandiæ, Gm. Syst. Nat. i. p. 541 (1788, ex Lath.).

  • Anas novæ zealandiæ, Lath. Ind. Orn. ii. p. 870 (1790).

  • Fuligula novæ zealandiæ, Steph. Gen. Zool. xii. p. 210 (1824).

  • Anas atricilla, Forster, Descr. Anim. p. 95 (1844).

  • Fulix novæ seelandiæ, Gray, Hand-l. of B. iii. p. 86 (1871).

Native names.

Papango, Tetepango, Matapouri, Titiporangi, and Raipo; “Black Teal” and “Widgeon” of the colonists.

ad. cristatus: suprà nigricans, vix virescente nitens, obsoletè et minutissimè fulvo vermiculatim punctulatus: tectricibus alarum paullò brunnescentioribus viridi nitentibus, haud vermiculatis: remigibus brunneis, extùs et versus apicem nigricantibus, scapis rufescentibus, minimis extùs ad basin albis, fasciam alarem conspicuam formantibus, secundariis intimis sordidè virescente lavatis: caudâ nigricante: capite summo purpureo, faciei et colli lateribus viridi nitentibus: pectore sordidè purpurascenti-brunneo: corpore reliquo subtùs albicante, minutè brunneo transvermiculato, hypochondriis rufescentibus: subcaudalibus nigri-cantibus: subalaribus albidis, exterioribus brunnescentibus: rostro cyanescenti-nigro: pedibus saturatè brunneis: iride lætè flavâ.

♀ magis brunnescens: subtùs pallidior: genis anticis et mento ipso plus minusve albidis.

Adult male. Head and neck black, glossed with purple and green; at the base of the lower mandible a spot of pure white; back and upper surface of wings black strongly glossed with green, the scapulars and upper wing-coverts minutely pricked or dusted with white; breast brownish black, freckled and dusted with white in its lower portion; underparts fulvous white varied with brown; beyond the vent dark glossy brown; sides and long plumage overlapping the thighs dark castaneous brown, with a rich vinous gloss; primaries velvety brown, paler on their inner webs; secondaries velvety brown glossed with green, the outer ones white in their basal portion, presenting, in the closed wing, a narrow white speculum; sometimes the white extends also to the primaries, forming a conspicuous alar bar; tail dark brown. Irides bright yellow; bill bluish black; feet dark brown. Total length 17 inches; extent of wings 26; wing, from flexure, 7·5; tail 2·5; bill, along the ridge 1·5, along the edge of lower mandible 1·9; tarsus 1·25; middle toe and claw 2·25.

Female. A broad band surrounding the base of the upper mandible white; head, neck, breast, and sides of the body blackish brown, changing to castaneous on the lower part of the breast and flanks; on the abdomen lighter brown mottled with fulvous white; darker brown in the ventral region; under tail-coverts blackish brown largely marked with white; shoulders dark brown margined with castaneous; back and upper surface of wings blackish brown, glossed with green; speculum as in the male; tail dark brown.

Obs. An example of the female in my collection differs from ordinary specimens in having no frontal band, the feathers surrounding the bill being light castaneous brown, but with a spot of white at the base of the page 274 lower mandible, as in the drake; the whole of the underparts white mottled with brown, an effect produced by each individual feather being brown in its basal portion and white at the tip. Another differs in having all the upper parts stained with pale umber-brown.

There is a smaller form in the Canterbury Museum, several of which were obtained at Lake Ellesmere. It is of a more chestnut hue than ordinary specimens, but on a careful comparison I can find nothing to distinguish it from the present species.

Nestling. Has the down thickset; the upper parts pale clove-brown, the underparts white; a dusky collar round the neck; an obscure white spot on each wing, and a smaller one on each side of the rump; the hair-like filaments on the upper parts rather long, very fine in texture, and perfectly black; irides dark brown; bill reddish brown, the under mandible yellow, with a brownish tip; feet light brown, both these and the bill having a fine polish.

This small Duck has all the habits of a true Scaup, although it is generally called by other names. It is freely distributed over the country, frequenting most of the rivers and lagoons, but seldom being met with in the bush-creeks, and never on the open sea-shore. In winter it associates in large flocks, mingling freely with the Grey Duck and other species; but at other times it is more generally met with in pairs or in parties of four or five together. Its powers of flight are very feeble; it takes wing with reluctance, and never rises high in the air, generally only skimming the surface; but it is a very expert diver, and usually trusts to this faculty for eluding pursuit. Even when mortally wounded it will often escape by this means, and take refuge in the dense sedge, whence it can only be dislodged by a retriever well trained to the work.

It is interesting to watch a flock of these birds disporting together in the water—standing up on their feet and flapping their wings, splashing the water as they chase one another, swimming under the surface, and performing other playful antics, accompanying them with a soft sibilant note and, at intervals, a feeble quack-quack.

This Duck is semi-nocturnal in its habits, and when the eel-fishing parties light their fires on the banks of the stream this inquisitive bird swims close up to the spot, and manifests the utmost curiosity in what is going on.

It is naturally a fearless bird, and in waters where it is protected it becomes very tame. I have never heard of any attempt to domesticate it; but this might, I think, be very easily accomplished, and there can be no doubt that it would be a very acceptable addition to the English duck-ponds.

It builds its nest of grass and lines the interior with soft down from its own body, placing it among the swamp-vegetation in situations contiguous to its haunts, or in the centre of a “negro-head” just above the level of the water. The eggs vary in number from five to seven, or even more, and are of a rather large size for such a bird, measuring 2·5 inches in length by 1·75 in breadth; they are of a rich dark cream-colour.

Mr. Travers informs me that he found a nest of this species containing seven eggs as late as the 17th of March*. He took three away; and the remaining four were hatched out in due course. The old birds were remarkably tame, allowing him to approach within a few yards of them, then hustling off the nest and returning to it again as soon as he had withdrawn himself. He remarked this very curious fact—that, during incubation, the duck was accustomed on leaving the nest to conceal the eggs by a covering of duck-weed taken dripping wet from the lake. He observed this on several occasions, and on examining the eggs afterwards he found that although quite wet they were perfectly warm. As already mentioned, the eggs were duly hatched in spite of these repeated wettings.

* Since writing the above I have met with several instances of unhatched clutches as late as the last week in March.